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More than three decades ago, the wind industry in Iowa was only a smattering of windmills scattered over the rural landscape. Today, fueled by the advances in technology, government support, the volatility of the foreign energy market, as well as the cachet of clean and renewable energy, it is now a multi-million-dollar affair.
According to association figures, Iowa’s wind industry is supporting over 3,000 jobs in the state, which is worth a combined payroll of more than $70 million annually. The landowners earn around $12.6 million annually in lease payments hosting wind turbines on their land.
The 2,800 wind turbines in the state can generate 4,375 megawatts at full capacity, which comes second to the 10,000 megawatts produced by Texas but ahead of the 3,100 megawatts generated by California. The goal of Iowa’s wind industry is to increase its capacity by 2030 to 20,000.
Elizabeth Salerno, the director of data and analysis for the American Wind Energy Association or AWEA, said, “The story in Iowa can be held up as a great case study on how to do it right.”
According to tax records, the group is the leading power advocacy organization in the country, having raised over $32.8 million in 2009 and $22.5 million in 2008 to finance its lobbying efforts.
Salerno said that the wind industry is a good case study compared to other states because of four reasons. “Iowa started early and it has great wind resources. It has available land, and farmers see having a turbine as just having a different type of crop. Fourth, Iowa has taken a lead in attracting companies that manufacture components,” said Salerno.